Ipswich, Mass. South Church

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Ipswich, Massachusetts. South Church records, 1747-1868, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

The initial plan to create a new church “South side of the river” in Ipswich, Massachusetts, dates to a petition presented to the First Church in Ipswich in 1725. The primary reason cited in the petition for the creation of a south meeting house was the long and difficult travel parishioners in southern Ipswich had to overcome in order to attend the First Church. The Parish voted to allow for construction of a south meeting house; however, this did not come to pass, apparently, in part, because one of the two employed ministers, Rev. John Rogers, was quite popular.

Calls for separation did not resume until 1746, shortly after the death of John Rogers in December, 1745. In 1746 a new petition for the creation of a south meeting house was presented to the First Parish. The new petition, beyond citing the geographic distance between communities, cited the fact that by 1746 the First Church meetinghouse was physically too small to comfortably accommodate the whole parish. Initially this petition was voted down. In 1746, Rev. John Walley was invited to become the second minister of the First Church to replace John Rogers. The first minister, Rev. Nathaniel Rogers and Rev. Walley did not get along well. When the disagreements between the two ministers became public, the First Parish voted to allow for the formation of a south meeting house and parish in large part to deescalate the feud between the two ministers. In 1747 the South Church was formally gathered and Rev. John Walley was installed as the first minister of the new church. Construction on the South Meeting House began in 1747 and was completed in the spring of 1748.

In 1838, the second meeting house of the South Church was constructed. Rev. Thomas F. Waters, minister of the South Church from 1879-1919, organized the Ipswich Historical Society. In 1899 the church steeple was struck by lightning; while the church building survived the subsequent fire, the original bell did not. A new bell was secured by Elizabeth M. Brown in honor of her late husband, William G. Brown.

In 1922 the South Church, whose membership had waned significantly in the twentieth-century, reformed with the First Church to form the First and South Congregational Church of Ipswich, Massachusetts. The South Church Meeting House was repurposed as the Parish House and served as that function until it was destroyed by fire in 1977. Only the bell survived the fire. The church lot was converted into a small park and the bell was repurposed into a memorial within the park. The First and South Congregational Church, now simply First Church, still serves the Ipswich community today.

The digital records below consist of two volumes of parish record books, the first dating to 1747-1851 and containing financial records, meeting and committee meeting minutes, reports, and vital records. The second parish record book dates from 1747-1851 and largely consists of a history of the South Parish, as well as other administrative records.

For additional information please see the finding aid.


Digital Materials

Parish records, 1747-1851

This volume contains the church history of the South Parish from 1747 to 1851 and includes the minutes of parish meetings and records of votes. Included within the records are pew deeds and pew chart, the development of the meeting house, payments to church officials and minister salaries, church appointments, their relationship with the First Church, committee records, parish affairs, burial grounds records, taxes collections, and the question of music in the church.

Parish records, 1747-1868

This volume is largely a church history of the South Parish from 1747 to 1868 and includes the South Parish covenant from 1747 as well as other founding documents. Additional records include parish meeting minutes, vital statistics such as births, baptisms, admissions, and marriages along with deaths, arranged by year, and membership lists by gender.


Related Materials

Ipswich, Mass. First Church records, 1724-1830


Special Thanks

This digital resource has been made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this resource do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.